Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, explained

Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies have become a flash point at a controversial World Cup tournament; between national teams facing punishment for wearing ‘One Love’ rainbow bracelets, international fans are told they can’t wear rainbow shirtsand a Qatari minister anti-LGBTQ comments This week, queer rights in the small Gulf emirate are one of the controversies on and off the pitch.

In Qatar, where punishments can include up to three years in prison for being LGBTQ, it has meant friction with the world over the country’s policies and attitudes towards queer people, and even with those who show support for LGBTQ rights, as well as concern. about what happens once the tournament is over and the world’s attention continues.

On Monday, a protester disrupted the match between Uruguay and Portugal, jumping onto the pitch waving a rainbow flag that says “RHYTHM”, the Italian word for peace, and wearing a Superman T-shirt with messages supporting Ukraine and the women protesting in Iran. Following the stunt, the Qatari Supreme Committee banned the fan from participating in the rest of this year’s matches and revoked his permission to stay in the country. Guardian reported.

Later in the week, Qatar’s energy minister, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, told German newspaper Bild that while LGBTQ people were welcome to visit Qatar, Western countries cannot “dictate” support for LGBTQ rights. Qatari law criminalizes sex outside of marriage, including gay sex.

“If you want to change me to say that I believe in LGBTQ, that my family should be LGBTQ, that I accept LGBTQ in my country, that I change my laws and Islamic laws to suit the West, then this is not acceptable,” Al Kaabi said.

Perhaps the most visible sign of the fight came with FIFA’s decision to punish players who wore “OneLove” armbands in support of LGBTQ rights. According to the new york timesSeven European teams alerted FIFA to his plans for captains to wear the armbands in September. FIFA did not communicate its decision to give yellow cards to the players who wore the bracelets until a few hours before England, one of the teams planning to protest, took to the pitch, and has not responded to Vox’s request to comment. about that decision.

The German players protested that decision, covering their mouths during pre-match team photos.

On their English-language Twitter account, the German team wrote: “This was not about making a political statement: human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted, but it’s still not the case. That is why this message is so important to us. Denying us the bracelet is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

In a joint statement, the teams planning to wear the armbands said they were prepared to pay fines for violating FIFA’s strict uniform codes, but the prospect of starting a game with a penalty against valuable players was an unfair risk. according to Associated Press. FIFA offered”nondiscriminationbracelets in place.

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During this year’s World Cup, both fans and journalist Grant Wahl They report they have been confronted when wearing rainbow paraphernalia in public, with some fans refusing entry to early matches despite assurances from Qatar and FIFA that all would be welcome.

“I have been discussing this issue with the country’s top leadership,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. “They have confirmed, and I can confirm, that everyone is welcome. If someone says otherwise, well, it’s not the opinion of the country and it’s certainly not the opinion of FIFA.”

Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ policies are draconian

The Qatari government, led by the wealthy Al-Thani family, mandates a conservative Islamic society. In Qatar’s interpretation of Sharia law, sex outside of marriageincluding homosexuality, is punishable by jail time and, as the maximum sentence, death by stoning, although no evidence is available that such a punishment was ever used.

It’s hard to gauge what queer life is like in Qatar because LGBTQ expression is extremely limited, Dr. Nasser Mohamed, a gay Qatari living in exile in the US, told Vox. “I came out to have a platform for ourselves.” she said, explaining that none of the queer people she knew in Qatar were out. “In Qatar, it is extremely dangerous for us to organize. When a person is found out, law enforcement tries to find out who they are in contact with. So it’s really hard to build a gay community.”

Mohamed left Qatar when he was 20 to study medicine “with the intention of never returning” due to the limited life he led there as a gay man. “There’s a lot of similarity to the Mormon and Amish communities, in terms of their religious practices and cultural practices: you’re in or you’re out. As a Qatari, you can’t really be different in any way,” he said.

Although there are small pockets of LGBTQ people in Qatar, there is no gay scene, Mohamed said. According to a report in Reuters, there are a few places where queer people can safely gather: at close friends’ house parties, and in some upscale restaurants and clubs. But that largely depends on social status, as well as the country of origin; it’s easier to be queer if you’re not a Qatari citizen, but only if you’re also rich.

“If you are an expat, you can live your life however you want,” a gay Arab man living in Doha told Reuters. “At the same time, I know that I can live like this because I am privileged. I know that gay men in labor camps couldn’t live the same way.”

What happens when the world is no longer looking at Qatar?

Now Mohamed is in contact with queer Qataris in lockdown, some of whom spoke to Human Rights Watch to a recent report detailing the abuses they have suffered at the hands of the state. As recently as September this year, LGBTQ Qataris reported that members of the Preventive Security Department had “detained them in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they verbally harassed detainees and subjected them to physical abuse, ranging from slapping even kicks and punches. until they bled.”

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Other reported punishments include “verbal abuse, extraction of forced confessions” and mandatory, state-sponsored conversion therapy for transgender women as a condition of their release. According to the report, security forces also “denied the detainees access to legal assistance, family, and medical care” and searched their phones, all while they were detained without charge. They received no record of their time in detention, making it difficult to prove state violence against LGBTQ people. A Qatari official denied the information in the report, including accounts of forced conversion therapy.

Mohamed expressed concern that a lack of documentation on state-sponsored abuse of LGBTQ people could prevent asylum seekers from supporting their cases. “The tolerance [the Qatari government] it’s giving to the world doesn’t extend to us, and people really need to know that,” he said. Vox has reached out to the US State Department for comment on the plight of gay Qataris and the protection of asylum claims, but has not received a response by press time.

Mohamed’s other concern is the backlash: “what they call ‘Western cleanup’ after the World Cup,” he said. Queer people in Qatar are also concerned about what happens after the world’s attention to Qatar’s human rights record inevitably shifts after the tournament ends.

“What about us, who have lived in Doha for years and have made Doha queer?” an Arab man living in Doha and interviewed by Reuters said. “What happens when the World Cup ends? Does the focus stop at rights?”